INTERNET HORROR // Jeff the Killer

The origin of the original Jeff the Killer image is still mostly unknown despite ongoing investigation in certain online circles. To make a long story short on the efforts so far, the photo was discovered to have been used on early 2000s Japanese message board sites, also appearing on Japanese YouTube. Although a rumour that the photo was an intended cyberbullying attack on a girl called Katy Robinson has been debunked, it is likely that the photo is a maliciously humorous edit of a girl, possibly a user of the old Stickam webcamming site. As previously mentioned, the original unedited photo has not yet been found.

In 2008, a user of the site Newgrounds named 'KillerJeff' uploaded the photo and claimed it to be him. A YouTube user named 'Sesseur' (possibly the same person behind the KillerJeff Newgrounds account) uploaded a now deleted YouTube video detailing the background of Killer Jeff. The later iteration of the story that appeared on the creepypasta website in 2011 is the one I am the most familiar with, though due to its poor writing, it was re-created in 2015.

Jeff the Killer (my rendition)

To briefly re-tell the story, teenage Jeff Woods has recently moved into a new house with his family and is also struggling with violent urges. Jeff and his brother Liu are targeted by neighbourhood bullies on their way to school. Jeff retaliates and beats them up. Later, at a neighbourhood birthday party, the bullies seek revenge on Jeff, pouring bleach over him and setting him alight. After Jeff recovers in hospital, his parents are reluctant to show him his reflection, with the bleach having (according to the story) turned his skin stark white, his lips cherry red, and his hair jet black. However, having suffered a mental breakdown, Jeff is delighted by his new look, laughing and smiling uncontrollably. On the night he is discharged from hospital, Jeff burns off his own eyelids and cuts his mouth into a smile, before killing his parents and brother and fleeing. Legend says he's still out there.

There are many reasons I find Jeff the Killer more interesting now than I even did when I was drawing fan art of him as a teenager. For one, he is, above all, a symbol of teenage angst (and I can see this now, with hindsight). Most of his fan-base were teens and pre-teens, and Jeff himself is thirteen in the story. I can only speak from personal experience, though I'd hazard that other Jeff fans had a similar experience: I was a mentally ill teen, beginning to struggle with self-harm. Many other kids go through similar things in adolescence, including dark thoughts and depression, but the experience is still isolating. I began to wonder if I was a bad person, which deteriorated into considering myself truly evil.

What I believe subconsciously resonated with me was the idea of a teen boy struggling with bullying and mental health issues and becoming a monster. I too thought I was a monster, so this must have seemed correct to me.

Although the version of the story I am familiar with is around twelve years old at this point, there is still a (presumably teenage) fanbase for Jeff. An eternal symbol of teenage destruction, held at thirteen years of age in the public eye like some sort of warped Peter Pan. I too am a Peter Pan of sorts. For one, I never went through a male puberty: if anyone ever guesses that I am a man, they pen me as one much younger than I actually am. I feel as if I am fundamentally still the same person I was as a teenager, struggling with issues I should have now grown out of.

More compelling to me is the idea that Jeff is now twenty-five years old. An adult. I imagine him somewhere working in an office, and wonder if he regrets his youth. His colleagues would look at him with a mixture of pity and disgust. Appearance wise, he has been permanently altered because of his childhood disturbances. He is unable to shake it because it is obvious to everyone that looks at him, and every time he sees himself, he is reminded.

The adult Jeff dreams

I wonder if people can look at me and tell that I've done bad things to myself and others. I wonder if this is something that will stay with me my whole life. I often miss the trick socially- that classic thing where people are picked last for team games. I feel that I am liked, but others would prefer to spend time with someone else rather than me. I know this is probably because I don't put in the effort, but I sometimes wonder if it is because there is something fundamentally wrong with me that other people can sense, and know to avoid. In crowded places, I fear that everyone is looking at me with muted revulsion. I fear that people are only friends with me because I've been around them for a long time and it just happened. Not out of choice- I've just stuck, clung on.

Regardless, like Jeff, I am probably permanently scarred. I cut my stomachs and legs, and now the space underneath my belly button is lumpy with knots of scar tissue. I next want to cover internet horror's successor to creepypasta, analogue horror, but first, I want to take a brief detour into 'Sharp Objects'.